Since its earliest days, cinema has depicted all sorts of ocean-bound ventures, from maritime and naval expeditions of note, to fantastical voyages based on pre-Columbus myths. For the average person who's accumulative boat experience won't equal more than the odd cruise or holiday ride, films provide that expansive visual entrance into the possibilities of life on the water, with certain titles leaving a huge splash in terms of quality. In our list of the top 10 Sea adventure movies, you won't find any of the Pirates of the Caribbean films; our choices favour a greater breadth of quality, with plenty of attention paid to the working life of seamen.
Director: Wolfgang Peterson
Cast: Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann
Did You Know? The actors of the film were deliberately kept away from the outside, so that they would look as pale as real submarine crews during the filming.
This is easily the best of the German World War II epics and one of the greatest films from the country overall. It was also hugely expensive, with most of the $15 million budget being spent on constructing its cast of U-boats; despite the fact that you rarely see much of the ocean. Whilst it's plagued by the usual historical inaccuracies and differences to the novel, this tense depiction of a U-96 submarine crew is heavily grounded in realism and appreciation for the tolls of this kind of warfare, and made us a lasting fan of its lead actor Jürgen Prochnow even to this day.
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn
Did You Know? Ed Harris almost drowned whilst filming underwater. His safety diver got hung up on a cable and his regulator was upside down, forcing a camera man to help put it in the correct orientation.As undersea adventure movies go, The Abyss is a marvel both from the technical and storytelling department. An underwater sci-fi lab thriller set in the Mariana's Trench, the 1993 special edition reminded us of the immersive nature of the special effects, with the original flaws of it's otherwise tense plot actually much improved. Given how much work went into this from every division, it's understandable why James Cameron has such a love for the depths of our oceans, and why this won't be his last appearance on this list...
Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones
Did You Know? A subtle lighting scheme was used to help audiences familiarise with each sub: red for Red October, green for the Alpha class "V.K. Konovalov" and blue for Dallas.Submarine films have had the royal treatment in cinema, and the crowning achievement has to be The Hunt for Red October. Based on the late, great Tom Clancy's novel, it spins the tale around a Soviet Union nuclear submarine, and the political tensions that arise after its captain defects to the US. It's impossible to say the title without Sean Connery's thick Russian accent poking through, however he's nevertheless commanding in the lead role. Ultimately the show stealer is the plot; a brilliant game of Jenga that keeps you very nicely enthralled till the subs resurface.
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane
Did You Know? At the film's end, a clock on the grand staircase where Rose meets Jack is pointing to 2:20AM: the same time the original ship sank.
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain
Did You Know? Steven Callahan was hired as a "nautical consultant", naturally because of his own ordeal surviving 76 days adrift a rubber lifeboat in the Atlantic.
The most fantastical entry in this list, Life of Pi may offer more escapism than the previous films on this list, but as astonishing water-bound adventures go we could hardly be more impressed. Based on a novel that was said to be un-filmable, this tale of a young Indian 16-year old who lies stranded on the Pacific with a Bengal tiger is engrossing and a cornerstone example of current special effects. It also wonderfully captures the unique, spiritual quality that's inherent in the open ocean.
Director: Richard Fleischer
Cast: Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas
Did You Know? The nurse shark that appears in the treasure chest scene was unscripted. Underwater personnel tried to warn it off, but the whole ordeal was considered so exciting it was left in the final cut.
One of the early live-action Disney films, 20,000 Leagues is a sea adventure movie of the pulpy, classic variety. Giant sea monsters and steampunk aesthetics may seem somewhat novel now, but back then they were the stuff of spectacle, as were the great lead performances and great-for-their-time effects that would lay the groundwork for future genre films and sea-bound adventures to follow.
Director: Peter Weir
Cast: Russel Crow, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd
Did You Know? This was the first movie ever to be shot on the Galapagos Islands.A boating epic with a distinct human side, this naval ocean adventure is based on the historical novel by Patrick O'Brian, telling the story of Jack Aubrey and his crew of the HMS Surprise. It's a well acted and technically flawless portrayal of life on a Napoleonic-era boat, looking into the complex relationships of the various sailors and even the scientific intrigue that was common of the time. The final battle scene, in our opinion, has yet to be outdone in any future boating bit of celluloid.
Director: John Huston
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley
Did You Know? The African Queen herself sank and had to be raised twice during the filming of the movie.
Director: John Huston
Cast: Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, Leo Genn
Did You Know? Orson Welles' one-scene cameo helped to fund his stage production of the very same story.
Director: Rob Stewart
Did You Know? The director has won over 50 international awards for this movie.Our most modern, and perhaps leftfield choice is Rob Stewart's powerful documentary on the plight of modern sharks today, whom he learns are the victims of illegal trade within the marine reserves of Cocos Island, Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Part scientific exploration into these dangerous but fascinating sea creatures, and part chase adventure, like the best docs it's eye opening and great food for thought.